East Coast Trip #3

My wife and I just returned from spending Thanksgiving with family and friends out on the East coast.  It was my third trip back since moving out to Oregon.  The second trip didn’t warrant a write up here since we only visited one brewery on that trip, although it was a good one, Joymongers Brewing in Greensboro.

Raleigh, NC Area: We flew into RDU airport and spent the first couple of nights at my best friends place in Garner (just south of Raleigh).  The first night we ventured out to a local bottle shop, The Beerded Lady, to grab some beer for dinner.  We got some cans of It’s Fall Ya’ll Coffee Stout from Trophy Brewing (Raleigh) and a growler of Pirate Queen Double IPA by Bombshell Brewing (Holly Springs).  The next day we met my sister and her partner for lunch and then after lunch walked around the corner to Brewery Bhavana.  Combination brewery, dim sum restaurant and bookstore, this place seemed to be pretty pretentious at first glance, but the beer was solid and the staff was down to earth, so looks aren’t everything.  Tried their flagship Till Farmhouse Ale, Dig Chocolate Stout and Patrick’s Birthday Barleywine (whiskey barrel aged).  All were very delicious.
46743022_10216048499459844_2292142815158730752_nWe finished the night at Brice’s Brewing  in Garner, just down the street from my friends house.  They had hosted a stout release party the night before and still had several on tap.  Between the four of us, we tried Oatmeal Stout, Chocolate Stout, Irish Stout and I also tried the Belgian Tripel.  The next morning we hit the road for South Carolina.

Pawley’s Island, SC: We didn’t make it to any breweries in SC, but we found some local beers at restaurants and at the grocery store.  The first night at dinner I had a great IPA, HopArt from Coast Brewing (North Charleston) which paired remarkably well with Southern style fried seafood. At the grocery store we picked up a 6 pack of Mango IPA from Palmetto Brewing (Charleston) and a 6 pack of Westbrook One Claw (Mt Pleasant).  The Mango IPA was quite good, the One Claw sadly was a little past it’s prime. I’ve had it before when it was better.  The second night I had an Espresso Porter also from Palmetto Brewing at a really great BBQ joint.

Asheville, NC: I hadn’t been to Asheville since I was young, and seemingly as soon as I left NC it blew up into a craft beer mecca.  We spent the next two days exploring Asheville, including a nice drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway.  The first night we stopped at Burial Beer Co. after dinner, which was a small place but they had a lot of unique beers.  I tried their blended sour and double IPA, which were both great and very different, and my wife had the coconut brown ale aged on cocoa nibs which was super chocolaty.  The next morning we had a tour scheduled at New Belgium Brewing.  We visited their Fort Collins brewery on our Denver trip two years ago and now got to see the East coast location.  The tour was great, it was cool to see the brewery and our guide was really great.  They gave us samples of Fat Tire, which I forget how good it is when it’s fresh, and Fat Tire White Ale, La Folie sour ale which is phenomenal, and Abbey (Belgian Dubbel) which was actually the first beer they ever made, and then their HPA Hemperor IPA which is made with hemp seeds.  Let’s just say when he started pouring it smelled like someone was lighting it up.
46912956_10216048530620623_6006808279408181248_n.jpg

Several people on the tour recommended we go to Sierra Nevada Brewery if we hadn’t already been.  Another West coast brewery that has started an East coast outpost, Sierra Nevada was located in nearby Mills River.  Originally, I wasn’t sure if we’d be able to make it out there, but it wasn’t as far away as I thought, just a quick 20 minute drive away.  We had dinner at the brewery (highly recommend the Duck Fat fries) and then did the self-guided walking tour.  I haven’t been to the Chico, CA location, but the Mills River brewery is massive but also beautifully laid out.  The long driveway with landscaping and custom street signs made it feel like you were entering a Disney property. While we were there, I had this years Celebration fresh hop IPA, which was really good, and my wife had the Sidecar Orange IPA which was also very refreshing.
46894205_10216048550421118_1840694980155277312_n

By this point we were actually starting to get kinda beer’d out.  After checking out some local art studios, we finished the Asheville tour with a trip to Urban Orchard Cider Co. It was nice to have something different, and the ciders were very refreshing.  We tried a hopped cider, a ginger cider and a holiday cider with cranberries that were all delicious.
46821421_10216048551061134_384162739905363968_nRaleigh-Durham International Airport: The last two days of the trip involved hanging out with my family and no beer, which is OK.  My parents don’t drink hardly at all and we’ve never had alcohol at any of the big family dinners, which is probably for the best.  However, we managed to snag a couple more local beers in the airport as we were headed home.  I had the Hoppy-Ki-Yay IPA by Lonerider Beer (Raleigh), and my wife had the Spoaty Oaty Pale Ale by Appalachian Mountain Brewing (Boone, NC).  Interestingly, I didn’t know at the time but as I just looked up AMB, they are part of Craft Brew Alliance which is based here in Portland.

46893839_10216048551621148_6739223378743263232_n

So there we have it, another fun trip to the East coast and five new locations to add to the Breweries Visited list.  All told, added another 31 unique beers to Untappd (plus a couple repeats).  Until next time, Cheers!

Untapping the World

Last week I had the opportunity to try my first beer from Hungary. It sadly wasn’t that great, but time, travel and storage have a huge effect on beer quality.  I’m sure the person sharing it did everything they could to keep it in good condition but there’s only so much you can do.

That said, the check-in brought up my Beer Connoisseur badge, which measures how many different countries I have drank a beer from.  What was interesting is that it gave me a list of the countries I’ve checked in and the number of beers I’ve had from that country. Since I’ve only traveled to Mexico and Canada (and live in the USA) most of these beers are commercially available in one of those countries.  A very slight few will be beers shared by friends who brought them back from that country.  I thought it was an interesting list to look at and it reminded me of some cool check ins.

USA – 2575 beers: Not surprising since I live in the US, this is the grand majority of my list.  About 92% in fact.
Canada – 52 beers: A good number of these were from my trip to Montreal earlier this year, but a decent number of Canadian beers are available “down south” in the States.
Belgium – 49 beers: I really like Belgian beers, and thankfully a lot of them are available in the States, particularly the beers from Trappist monasteries.
Germany – 28 beers: Again, not shocking, a lot of German beers are available in the States. Several of these are from my BJCP classes and the Mt Angel Oktoberfest.
England – 15 beers: A lot of Fullers and Samuel Smith beers that are available in the US as well as ciders like Strongbow.
Mexico – 12 beers: Almost all of these are from my Mexico trip.
Scotland – 8 beers: Shares from friends who travel to Scotland frequently, and the Scottish pub we went to in Seattle.
Denmark – 8 beers: Mikkeller and To Øl, probably the only two available in the US. 4 of each interestingly enough.
Poland – 6 beers: A handful of Polish beers are available in the US. My wife has traveled to Poland and someday I hope to go as well.
Netherlands – 6 beers: Almost all of these are from the International Tent at the Oregon Beer Festival.  They bring over some interesting stuff.
Ireland – 4 beers: Guinness and Murphy’s Irish Stout. Pub beer.
Japan – 4 beers: One random craft beer I found here in Portland (Yo-Ho Brewing) the others Kirin and Sapporo.
The Bahamas – 2 beers: Pirate Republic beers from our honeymoon cruise. At the time these were the only two they had.  Only brewery in the Bahamas.
Colombia – 2 beers: Interesting story with these Bogatá Brewing beers.  They got sent up to the Best of Craft Beer competition, but otherwise I don’t think they are sold in the States.
China – 2 beers: Tsingtao and Lucky Buddha, both from restaurants.
France – 1 beer: France isn’t really known for it’s beer scene.  3 Monts Biere de Garde is really good though.
Australia – 1 beer: Coopers Pale Ale. Probably from a BJCP class.
Czech Republic – 1 beer: Pilsner Urquell. Classic style, from a BJCP class.
Switzerland – 1 beer: Abbaye de Saint Bon-Chien, a Swiss Trappist brewery.
Italy – 1 beer: Brewfist Grappa barrel aged RIS.  From Festival of Dark Arts.
India – 1 beer: Haywards 5000 Super Strong.  From a Greek Restaurant ironically.
Vietnam – 1 beer: 33 Export.  From a Thai restaurant.
Phillippines – 1 beer: Red Horse Beer.  Had this on the Portland Spirit (Christmas party).
Lithuania – 1 beer: Dragon Lady Doppelbock. From a BJCP exam.
Jamaica – 1 beer: Red Stripe mon…
Hungary – 1 beer: Feher Nyul Oatmeal Stout.

So there we have it, a very interesting list and a neat trip down memory lane looking up where I had some of these beers.

Cheers!

2018 Competition Recap

As I had previously mentioned in my Goals Update post, I had two major goals for this year, one that happened and one that didn’t. I had a good feeling coming into this year that it was going to be “my year”, and it didn’t completely work out that way but it was still a pretty amazing year.

The year started with a bang at the Stout Bout competition in February.  My “barrel” aged Rum Stout scored 36 points and took first place in Wood and Barrel Aged.  My first ever 1st place category win, although being a limited style competiton (Stouts Only) it didn’t qualify for Oregon State Homebrewer of the Year.  The same beer scored a 27 at KLCC, which shows some variability from comp to comp, as well as deeper competition since I wasn’t going against just stouts.

20180305_151021

Next up was the COHO Spring Fling, I entered my Belgian Dark Strong, my CDA and a British Bitter, a style I had never brewed before.  The BDS and CDA didn’t score well (both around 25 points) but the Bitter scored a 40.5 and took 1st Place in British Beers.

20180501_050431

COHO was a qualifier for OSHBOTY and so I accomplished my first goal of the year which was to get on the scoreboard.  I only got 5 points, but it was enough to get my name on there.2018 OSHBOTY1

That’s also what I finished the year with.  One of the goals for next year will be to score points in more than one competition.

Next came the results of the National Homebrew Competition First Round, which was my second goal of the year, medal in a category and advance to finals.  Unfortunately, that didn’t happen, but I’m happy with my scores.  The CDA scored 34.5, the BDS scored 32.5 and the Bitter scored 29. Maybe next year.

In May was my homebrew club’s IPA specific competition Heart of Cascadia.  My CDA scored 40 points and took 1st place in the Black IPA/Cascadian Dark Ale category.  While also not a OSHBOTY qualifier, this was now my third award of the year, all three of which were first place and in three different categories.  Shocked doesn’t describe what I was feeling by this point.

20180519_161215

Rounding out the summer competitions was the Oregon State Fair.  I entered my CDA, Belgian Dark Strong and Bitter again, and the BDS took Third place in the Trappist Category.

20180914_163549

In September and October there were three competitions fairly close together to round out the year.  At Rocktoberfest in Bend my CDA scored 30.3 and my BDS scored 36.5 but didn’t take home any medals.  The at Salem Harvest Classic, my only entry was my BDS.  The BDS scored 40.5 points and took first place Trappist and earned an Honorable Mention in the Best in Show judging.  Essentially, it ended up 4th place in BOS but needed some serious deliberation to split between 3rd and 4th.

20181013_163438

The last competition of the year was my homebrew club’s big annual competition, the Fall Classic.  I entered my CDA, BDS and a rebrew of the Bitter (which didn’t go well).  The bitter scored a 26, which wasn’t shocking, the BDS scored a 31 and my CDA scored a 32 and took 3rd place in Specialty IPA, which is always a very competitive category.

20181102_140744

Overall, 6 awards is a drop from last years 8, however the spread of 4 golds and 2 bronze, slightly edges out last years 5 bronze and 3 silver.  Quality over quantity?

In the OBC Homebrewers Cup (Homebrewer of the Year) I earned 77 points, an increase from last year’s 51.  Gold medals are worth more.  In 2016 I earned 32 points, so a steady increase each year.  Still, not remotely close to winning Brewer of the Year (first place has 504 points) but I’m happy with the increase.

The goals for next year will remain similar to last year.  I achieved the goal of scoring points in OSHBOTY, so perhaps the goal now will be to beat my previous years total of 5 points.  I still don’t expect to win the thing or even finish top ten, but beating 5 points will mean winning more than one category or winning a large one, such as IPA.

The goal of medaling in NHC regionals and advancing to Finals will continue until it happens.  Honestly, this will be a goal every year.

I’m also hoping next year to have a chance to brew a commercial batch of beer, which would require either being selected for Collaborator, Willamette Week Pro-Am, or winning Best in Show for a competition that offers that as a prize.  A lofty goal, but one I hope I can achieve.

2019 Season starts in late January, so short turn around!

Into the Woods Part 8 – Halloween Edition

The weather has turned cooler, it’s raining and there are leaves blowing around everywhere.  Dark, thick beer weather is upon us at last.  Last night I went over to a friends house for a Halloween party and both our hosts and several guests brought out some nice bottles for the occasion. Large parties are great for trying several things since 6-10 people are splitting a bottle you can get several small tastes in without getting too deep into the weeds at the end of the night.

I didn’t take any tasting notes, but several things jumped out at me, so I want to get them jotted down here while I still remember them.

2018 Bourbon Barrel Aged Dark Star Spice Wars – Fremont Brewing (Seattle, WA) –This was the first bottle that got opened and talk about swinging for the fences.  Fremont has a pretty good track record with barrel aged beers.  I’ve had the plain Barrel Aged Dark Star, but this one has the addition of a handful of spices.  The label lists cinnamon, clove, allspice, ginger, nutmeg and vanilla.  It was delightful to drink and the only thing I would really knock it for was that the cinnamon really overpowered everything else. I didn’t get the other spices.  My wife said it tasted like an oatmeal cookie, so I think they nailed it. (4.75 stars)

Good Gourd Almighty – Pumpkin Beer aged in Rum Barrels – Cigar City Brewing (Tampa, FL) – The first of three Cigar City beers to make an appearance last night (our hosts used to live in Florida and attend the Hunahpu Stout release often).  Lightly spiced pumpkin beer with a strong vanilla presence from the rum.  Pretty easy drinking and does well to hide it’s 11% abv strength.  (4.5 stars)

Forgotten Island – Belgian Quad aged in Rum Barrels – Cigar City Brewing –  Another rum barrel aged beer from Cigar City, unfortunately this one was not very good.  Or, at least it was very old.  I believe this was from 2014 and it was sickly sweet, not crisp and dry like a Belgian strong should be and was very oxidized, a flavor to which I’m sadly very sensitive.  Other people weren’t as put off by it as I was, so some personal taste issues I’m sure.  Would have probably been amazing if fresh.  (3.25 stars)

2013 Eclipse (Black Wax/Evan Williams barrel) – FiftyFifty Brewing Co. (Truckee, CA) – I see these bottles at the bottle shop all the time, what’s interesting is they bottle variants from a single style of barrel and the different wax color is the key to what barrel. One might be Woodford Reserve, one might be Heaven Hills, etc. This one was Evan Williams, which isn’t super rare, but still a very enjoyable beer.  Super smooth and great whiskey character.  No harsh alcohol despite pushing 12%. (4.75 Stars)

Toyko* – Brewdog Brewing (Aberdeenshire, Scotland) – I really have no idea what this beer is supposed to be.  An imperial stout with jasmine and cranberries and then dryhopped and aged on toasted French oak chips.  It says it’s meant to be “excess” and it surely is.  Even comes in at a whopping 18.2% alcohol.  At about 4 years old, it mostly tasted like soy sauce.  Not very pleasant, but interesting to try. (3.0 stars)

Bonus Beer:

2013 Hunahpu’s Imperial Stout – Cigar City Brewing –  This one’s not actually barrel aged, but it was a rare treat to get to try it and it rounds out the Cigar City trio from last night.  This Mayan themed beer is essentially Mexican chocolate, with cocoa and chili peppers.  It was pretty good, but the peppers were a bit over the top for my personal taste.  It had a strong flavor and a bit of a throat burn.  (4.5 stars)